The burning, attended by 20 people and streamed live over the Internet, was carried out by pastor Terry Jones‘ church in Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, The Gainesville Sun said, and video of the burning was uploaded to YouTube by the pastor’s supporting group “Stand Up America Now.”
The Pentagon had urged Jones to reconsider, expressing concern that American soldiers in Afghanistan and elsewhere could be put at greater risk because of the act, according to the newspaper, but Jones insisted to go ahead with the protest in the name of the release of the Christian pastor in Iran.
Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 and condemned to death under Islamic sharia law for converting to Christianity when he was 19.
Now 34, he is a pastor of a small evangelical community called the Church of Iran. Iran’s supreme court in July 2011 overturned the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in Nadarkhani’s hometown of Rasht, in Gilan province.
His retrial took place at the end of September 2011 with no verdict made public.
NADARKHANI NOT CONSIDERED A CHRISTIAN
Ironically, Christians familiar with Youcef Nadarkhani’s theology do not consider him to be a Christian. Theologians note that Nadarkhani is a follower of the late William Branham — a self-proclaimed prophet who was considered a heretic of the Christian faith.
William Branham (1909 — 1965) Branham taught that the Word of God was given in three forms: the zodiac, the Egyptian pyramids, and the written scripture — and he said that anyone belonging to any denomination had taken “the mark of the beast.”
He also denied the doctrine of the Trinity, which he considered to be “of the devil.”
The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the essential teachings of the Christian faith.
Individuals who – while claiming to be Christians – reject one of more central doctrines of the Christian faith are considered heretics.
Groups which reject one of more essential doctrines while claiming to represent Christianity, are considered – theologically – cults of Christianity. (Note the difference between theological and sociological definitions of the term ‘cult.’)
Therefore as a ‘Branhamite’ Yousef Nadarkhani is a member of a movement that is, theologically, a cult of Christianity.
That does not make his situation as the victim of religious persecution any less worse or any less wrong than if he had indeed been a Christian. But it is important that religion reporters — and those who claim to be Christians, even if they act like Terry Jones — make a proper distinction between Christians and those who promote heresy.
Terry Jones is pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida.
The church, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has about 50 followers.
In 1996 Terry Jones took over as senior pastor soon after Don Northrup, who founded the church in 1985, died.
Northrup’s widow says she feels Jones turned the church into a ‘cult’ (sociologically).
Reportedly members are required to vow allegiance to Jones — a pledge that places restrictions on their diets, their ability to hold jobs outside the church and their personal relationships.
Jones’ antics — which include both anti-Muslim and anti-gay rhetoric — are not much different from those of Fred Phelps and family, whose Westboro Baptist Church also is a hate group masquerading as a Christian church.